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e m o H s r e d l i u B GUIDE A Special Publication of the I-75 Group of Ohio Community Media Troy Daily News • Piqua Daily Call • Sidney Daily News



Home Builders Guide • August 2012


Step -byStep Building




Home by Kirk Baruth

Wouldn’t it be nice if building your own home was as easy as constructing the toy houses of your childhood? You’d get out a set of plastic or wooden blocks and arrange them exactly the way you wanted. If you weren’t happy, you could knock the whole thing down and start over. Unfortunately, there’s no Lincoln Logs kit for constructing a habitable dwelling. Careful planning, however, will ease you through the process. Building a home isn’t child’s play, but taking the time to educate yourself about what you’re likely to encounter will keep you from going gray before your time. the future? If so, will each child require a separate bedroom or will they share rooms? How many bathrooms are necessary to adequately fulfill the day-to-day needs of the family? Do you have parents who may be living with you in the future? Do out-of-town visitors often stay overnight? Do you frequently work at home? How often do you entertain? Do you require separate formal and informal spaces for different occasions? The answers to these questions may indicate the floor plan that best suits the way you live. For example, answers to the first few questions help determine the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you need, perhaps the most important element of a floor plan. If you have elderly parents or frequently host overnight guests, you may want to consider a floor plan with a separate guest suite that includes a priFinding the perfect plan may be time vate bath or private access to a full bath. consuming, but it’s key to the success of Answering the question about how often building a home. If you’re not in love with the final product, even if it’s only on you work at home can determine whether a plan with a designated home paper, you won’t be committed to seeing office, study or quiet computer alcove is a it through to reality. You may already have a picture in your mind of what your smart investment. Answers to questions about how you entertain can help you dream home looks like. It’s important, however, to ask yourself a series of ques- decide what types of common rooms you’ll need. If you enjoy entertaining on a tions that can help you choose a plan that works for you. The answers will pro- grand scale, you may want a set of formal rooms (formal living and dining vide direction for finding the home you rooms or a library, for instance) that proneed, not just the home you think you vides the space and the proper atmoswant. phere for such occasions. If your enterFirst, ask yourself a series of lifestyle questions. Are you single or married? Do taining habits are more casual, you may opt for a large family room adjoining an you have small children or will you in

Choosing a Plnn

open kitchen, instead. Many people today choose plans that feature a central Great Room, the character of which can change to suit your entertaining mood, from formal to casual. Next, ask yourself what kinds of activities you enjoy. Are you an indoor or outdoor person? If you prefer spending time inside, choose a plan with features that enhance your leisure time: a fireplace, space for media equipment, a hobby room or a studio, or a gourmet kitchen. If you can’t resist the call of the great outdoors, consider a plan with an open porch, a screened porch, a deck, a terrace or some other space that functions as an outdoor living room. Does the plan allow enough lawn area for children to use for outdoor games and sports? If gardening is your passion, consider the benefits of a plan featuring a mudroom in close proximity to the utility room and a half-bath, perhaps. Or choose a floor plan that offers multiple outdoor views overlooking your handiwork. Finally, the geographical features of your lot, if you’ve already purchased one, may determine the home best suited to it. A narrow lot usually calls for a design that rises up instead of spreading out. A wide, shallow lot, on the other hand, is perfect for a one-story rambler. A sloping lot offers you the chance to build a home with a daylight (walk- out) basement or an inconspicuous, tuck-under garage. For a scenic lot, you may want a design offering outdoor spaces like decks or porches that provide

a panoramic view. If you haven’t yet selected a lot, be sure to keep all of the above factors in mind when doing so. Chances are you’ll find the home that fits your needs among the thousands of


designs HomeStyles offers. If not, you have the option of modifying a plan so it’s exactly what you want. Modification involves having an architect or draftsman redraw part of your plan to incorporate features that better suit your needs. Typical modifications include changing foundations, continued on page 3

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Home Builders Guide • August 2012


your grade school teacher used to say: there are no stupid questions. No one expects you to be an expert at financing or building a home, especially if it’s your first, so ask questions. Doing so may even help you avoid costly mistakes. Follow another of your teacher’s instructions: take notes. Write down the meanings of terms that are new to you, or that you want to get more information on at a later time. Many banks even offer handouts explaining the language of financing. If they don’t, ask for one; the chances are good that loan officers have something they can photocopy from a resource book they themselves use. The first step in financing your home is determining how much you can afford. The rule of thumb is that your mortgage should be no more than 2–21⁄2 times your annual salary. Another standard dictates that homeowners spend about 38 percent of their annual salaries (after taxes) on total housing costs—including mortgage, insurance and utilities. Remember to take into account your changing financial circumstances over the life of the loan (up to 30 years). Do you expect your income level to remain stable, increase or decrease? Do you have young children, or will your family be expanding in the future? Will education costs affect your family over the course of the loan? A good loan officer will review all these factors with you. Your loan officer will also ask to see certain financial documents. These could include the purchase contract for the house, bank account numbers, bank branch addresses, recent bank statements, pay stubs, W-2 forms, information about all loans, debts and credit cards, mortgage or rental payment receipts and a Certificate of Eligibility from the Veterans Administration if you want a VA-guaranteed loan. If you are selfemployed, the lender may also want to review business tax returns and balance sheets from the past two or three years. It’s likely that you’ll end up with one of two types of mortgages. Perhaps the most common in the past has been the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM), which carries the same interest rate and the same monthly payments throughout the life of the loan. FRMs are also available in 15-year terms. The 15- year mortgage carries a higher monthly rate, but the amount you pay in interest is lower over the life of the mortgage. Because interest rates fluctuate from week to week and even from day to day, the rate a lender quotes when you are shopping around could be very different from the rate available when you finalize. Those rates can also increase after you apply for the loan, but before finalization. A few percentage points can dramatically increase (or decrease) the total interest you pay over the life of the loan. Many lenders offer a lock-in on a quoted interest rate and sometimes on the number of points quoted. (A point equals one percent of the amount borrowed. Lenders often charge points to increase the yield on a mortgage and to cover loan closing costs.) The lock-in ensures that if interest rates increase before finalization, the borrower can still secure the loan at the terms previously discussed. Lenders often charge a fee for the lock-in, which lasts for a pre-determined time— usually between 30 and 60 days. An increasingly common type of home financing is the adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), so called because the interest rate adjusts periodically throughout the life of the loan. Many lenders advertise ARM interest rates that are much lower than those for fixed-rate mortgages. Those rates often last for a short time and, after that initial period, the rates are adjusted on a regular basis. The time between rate changes—called the adjustment period—is usually one year. Threeand five-year adjustment periods are also available. An ARM allows you to take advantage of low initial rates. If interest rates drop over the life of the loan, you could also save money over an FRM. However, if interest rates rise, you could end up owing more than you would have under an FRM. Before assuming an ARM, evaluate how your finances will change in upcoming years. Can you afford monthly payments that could be higher than those you started with? A federally mandated cap on ARMs may help, but you should still work with your loan officer to find the type of mortgage that’s of most benefit to you. Now comes the fun part. After you’ve selected your plan, hired a builder and secured a mortgage, your dream home begins to take shape before your eyes. This is no time to sit back and take it

easy, however. The final touches, the little parts of yourself that make a house a home, have yet to be applied. It’s at this point that you’ll need to ask yourself whether hiring an interior designer makes sense. The expertise of a certified interior designer extends far beyond aesthetics. In addition to space planning, lighting design, color coordination and the selection of materials, furnishings, fixtures and finishes, interior designers possess a working knowledge of interior construction, fire and building codes, and safety, energy and environmental issues. When seeking an interior designer, you may want to consider working with a professional with membership in the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). This organization represents the highest level of interior design professionalism, and its membership requirements are demanding. An applicant must fulfill educational and/or practical experience requirements, be engaged in professional practice, and have completed the National Council for Interior Design qualifications exam. ASID offers an online nationwide referral service ( as a valuable starting point. Request from all potential designers a list of three to four previous clients, and ask the clients about their satisfaction with the designer’s work and working style. You should schedule a meeting with the designer to review a portfolio of past work and to discuss expectations. Inquire about the designer’s education, training, experience, professional affiliations and other credentials. He or she will explain the design process and how design services are charged. Ask about available services, cost estimates and what the designer can do to maximize your budget. Whether you decide to consult a professional or follow your own intuition, good planning and a realistic idea of

what you want to accomplish will help your interior design project immensely. First, identify your likes and dislikes. A knowledge of your own tastes is essential to creating an interior you love. Go through your current home and identify the items that do and don’t work for you. Note pieces of furniture, antiques, special objects and anything you want to keep, so you and your interior designer can incorporate these objects into the new design. Then, peruse how-to books and your favorite magazines for ideas on design style and technique. Visit furniture stores, department stores and model homes for additional ideas and inspiration. Take pictures of what you like. Perhaps most importantly, make sure family members agree on the plan before you start spending money on furnishings or interior design fees. Take a step-by-step approach to your design project. Decide how and by whom each space will be used. Matching your design to the way you live is essential. Whether a room is to be used for relaxation, entertaining or work, its use will determine its design and the elements that go into it. Remember to be realistic about the size and scope of the space you’re considering, and choose a design that reflects the mood you want to create while meeting your functional needs. Examine the special features and the possible shortcomings of the room in question. Is the ceiling too low or the room drab? Do you need more storage space or a special computer or hobby area? After you’ve answered a few basic questions and critically assessed your needs, you’ll have a specific idea of how to proceed. Find a focus for each room—a cornerstone upon which to build the design and decor of the rest of the room. If the room doesn’t have something that naturally draws the eye, such as a picture window with a great view, you can substitute a striking piece of furniture or a group of smaller elements, such as flower continued on page 4

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adding rooms, changing the exterior wall framing to accommodate environmental conditions, and even going so far as to change the exterior look of the design (Do you prefer a Tudor-style home over a farmhouse? No problem!). Homeplans Design Services of St. Paul, Minn., modifies hundreds of plans every year, in addition to producing original designs. The average price of modifying a plan is $800 to $1,600, well worth the cost to get exactly what you want. (By comparison, the average fee charged by an architect to design your home from scratch is 10 percent of the final cost of the home, or $20,000 for a $200,000 home.) “In most cases, individuals find a plan that is close to what they are looking for but would like to make some changes to better fit their specific needs,” says Jim Verhaest, director of sales and marketing for Homeplans Design Services. “We work with the client personally to create or redesign the plan in accordance with their design ideas and budget-related concerns.” Companies like Design Services usually prefer to be contacted before you’ve purchased your blueprints. DesignServices associates offer free estimates; you can call them toll-free at 1888-2MODIFY. Builder, the magazine of the National Association of Home Builders, offers several tips for choosing a person or company to construct your dream home. The first step is to find a builder. As with locating any other professional with whom you seek to establish a relationship of trust, the best referrals often come from friends who have built a home. Ask them for recommendations, as well as for the names of builders they rejected and the reason. A local home building association can provide you with a list of builders in your area, though most, in an effort not to play favorites, won’t refer you to a specific builder. You can even check sources such as real estate agents, hardware store owners, loan officers at banks, or others who commonly deal with the residential construction industry. Builder offers its own professional directory accessible through its Web site ( Compile a list of potential builders, then schedule visits and get a rough estimate from each. Take your house plan with you, and ask to see a portfolio of the builder’s work. At this meeting, it’s important to get a sense of how you interact with the builder. Is the individual responsive to questions, and does he or she provide information without you asking? Remember, your builder will be your best friend during the construction of your home. If you get an uneasy feeling from the start, chances are you’ll also have problems down the line, when communication will be vital. Choose up to five builders and ask each to submit a final bid. To do so, they’ll need a list of the specific products—from faucets to kitchen countertops to windows—you want used in the construction. Make sure that each builder is working off the same set of blueprints and the exact same list of finishing materials, or you’ll end up with skewed bids. When the bids come in, don’t necessarily discount the highest and assume the lowest is the one you want. Some builders low-ball an initial bid and are then forced to cut corners to meet the budget. Just as important as the builders’ bids are their reputations. Builder magazine recommends making sure that each of your potential choices is sufficiently insured, bonded and licensed. Requirements vary by state, so check with the state agency responsible for registering builders (in most states it’s required), and see if your candidates meet the basic criteria. Don’t be afraid to ask for proof from the builder; a builder who has nothing to hide will produce such documentation willingly. A state licensing agency or a local chapter of the Better Business Bureau will be able to tell you whether builders have ever had a complaint filed against them. Talk with past clients, too, and find out about their experience with a particular builder. Make sure to visit a home that was completed in the not-too-recent past to see how it’s holding up. After all the information is in, choose the builder that best meets your criteria. Choosing an institution to finance your new home won’t be nearly as hard as choosing a builder. However, if it’s your first home loan, you may feel lost in the maze of banking jargon you encounter. Don’t worry. As with the rest of the home- building process, remember that others have made it through, and you will too. To start, remind yourself of something

continued from page 2

Phillip Mueller

Step by Step




Home Builders Guide • August 2012

Step by Step

continued from page 3


Mark Englund




arrangements, to create a focal point. sized area. Remember that certain Finally, decide what you really want and decisions what you can live without. Go to stores regarding your interior layout must be and price the design elements. Develop a completed early in the planning process. list of prioriKitchens ties that and addresses baths, your moneespecially, tary and require time limits. the orderAlso keep in ing of mind size applilimits for furances, nishings. counterMake a grid tops, on a sheet of faucets graph paper and fixof the room tures that you’re workmay ing on; one influence square on a the paper builder’s should correestimate spond to a of how square foot of much it floor space. will cost Sketch in to condoors, winstruct the dows, heathome. ing and coolA satising outlets, fying and any building other feaexperitures of the ence space that hinges on Plan E-4200, determine your abilwhere you ity to be can place furproactive niture. Then, take both your floor plan rather than reactive. In this endeavor, and a tape measure with you when shop- more than any other you may undertake ping. A couch that looks just the right in your lifetime, forethought is crucial. size in a spacious showroom can overCareful planning is the key that will whelm a modestunlock the door to your dream home.

Plan LS-2603-HB,

Sources: “How to find the Right Builder,” Builder Best Home Designs, Mid-Spring 1991; Laura Lentz, “Interior Definers,” and Jessica Tolliver, “Realize Your Dreams: A Guide to Financing Your New Home,” Homeplans, part of Move; Jim Verhaest, Homeplans Design Services

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Home Builders Guide • August 2012






Have a number in mind before meeting with a builder or architect by Tom Stephani

One of the first steps in the home-building process is borrow the maximum amount for which you can qualify. application fees, and a deposit on the builder’s services to investigate and analyze your financial situation and Take a realistic look at how much you are willing to or any preliminary fees payable to the builder. find out how much money you’ll have available for the sacrifice in order to afford your new home. Most builders require a down payment of at least 20 construction and purchase of your custom-built home. The total amount of cash you’ll need at hand to build percent of the total cost for a custom or semi-custom It’s generally a smart move to make some prelimiyour new home depends in part on the scope of the home. Many buyers put down as much as 50 percent of nary financial arrangements before you begin interproject. For a production or tract home, the amount of the total. Sources of down payment funds might include viewing builders or architects and before you purchase cash you’ll need to get started isn’t much more or much equity that has accumulated in your current home, sava site for your new home. Without a budget in mind, less than you’d need to purchase an existing resale ings, other liquid investments, equity in the site for you won’t be in a good position to make those other home. In fact, a small deposit may be the extent of your new home (if the land has already been purimportant decisions. what’s initially required. For a custom or semi-custom chased), or other investments that will be liquidated Check Out Lenders home, you’ll need a substantial amount of cash prior to prior to the start of construction. Ask several lenders to explain the loan products they obtaining your construction financing. If the equity in your existing home will be the prioffer. Loan programs and qualificamary source of your down paytion requirements are constantly ment on your new home, you will changing, so it’s important to find probably want to obtain a realisout what options are available to tic estimate of the market value you. Many home buyers are surof your home and estimate how prised to discover they can qualify long it will take to sell your for a larger mortgage than they home. thought they would be able to KnowWhatYourHomeIsWorth obtain. Others are disappointed to Interview several well-qualilearn their dream home is finanfied real estate agents who are cially out of reach, at least for a familiar with your neighborhood while. and ask each to give you a comBefore you begin consulting parative market analysis (CMA) lenders, obtain a copy of your credit for your home. Selling your curreport and contest any errors in it. rent home before construction Cleaning up begins on your new home can be your report ahead of time will position you in the best possible a stress-reducing strategy even It is important when building light to borrow money. Be prepared though you may have to move CALCULATE YOUR OPTIONS a new home to examine your to explain any negative informatwice. Trying to time the sale of financial situation and find out tion in writing. Do the math with these easy-to-use calculators found your current home to coincide what you can really afford. at in the section titled Ask at least one lender to prewith the completion of your new Meeting with several lenders “Home Dollars and Sense”: qualify you for a mortgage. The and finding out what you’re home will be nearly impossible lender will ask you some questions 1. What is the value of my home? 3. Mortgage payment qualified for will help you and highly stressful. about your income, your debts, and calculator 2. How much can I afford? get started. your credit history, then use that During the design and coninformation to give you a reasonstruction phases of building your ably reliable estimate of your borrowing power. Prenew home, you’ll be presented with countless opportuniBuilders suggest budgeting at least $5,000 to qualification is usually free. It doesn’t obligate you to ties to upgrade every component from the roofing mate$10,000, depending on the anticipated size of your obtain a loan from the lender, nor does it obligate the rials to the kitchen cabinets. Having a cash reserve or home. These up- front expenses are part of the total lender to provide a loan for you. Withholding informaadditional borrowing capacity will enable you to include project cost and often can be “reimbursed” to you in tion from the lender isn’t in your best interest because your construction loan or considered to be a portion of those upgrades that will make your home truly special whatever you don’t reveal almost always will be uncov- your down payment. for you. If you max out your budget on the basic home, ered when you submit your formal mortgage applicaevery decision about options and upgrades will be The building process involves a number of expenses tion. excruciating. you’ll need to incur before your construction financing Decide What You Can Afford Setting an appropriate budget is one of the most becomes available. These expenses might include a After the lender gives you an estimate of your bordeposit on purchasing your building site, preparation of important steps in the home-building process. rowing capacity, sit back for a while and assess your the plans and specifications for building your home, site Approaching budget constraints realistically can help own comfort level. There is no reason why you must set the stage for a rewarding home-building experience. engineering, various government building fees, loan

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Home Builders Guide • August 2012

smart money

More BANG for Your Buck Building a high-quality yet affordable home

by Ginny Windels Photography by Leon Thompson/Home Plans LLC


Congratulations! You’ve decided it’s time to build the home of your dreams. You envision a home that will be beautiful, comfortable, and well constructed—a lifelong haven where you and your family will create lasting memories. But how do you achieve all of this and still stay within your budget? Let’s take a look at some of today’s top money-saving strategies for building a new home.

Plan J-0314,

Create a checklist, and stick to it

Pick the right plan

Before settling on a design, take time for an honest evaluation of your needs: Which rooms would your family use regularly, and which would sit empty or unused? What amenities are necessary and practical for your lifestyle, and what would be over the top? Creating a checklist of your new-home needs will help keep you organized and focused on the necessities as you search for that perfect plan.

How can you save money while you’re pondering which home plan to buy? By paying close attention to the designs—both the exteriors and the floor plans. • Look for a plan without unnecessary jogs and angles on the exterior, which will add to the cost. • Complicated rooflines—intended to add “visual interest”—will also add to your bottom line. Opt for a design with simplified truss and framing systems, which will save you money from the start. • If you love volume ceilings, look for two-story—or at least consistent— ceilings, rather than staggered heights throughout a floor plan. For volume, specify truss systems that create tray ceilings, giving the effect of higher ceilings without requiring taller walls, which drive up your costs. • Choose a floor plan that uses leftover space smartly. Common solutions to this problem are niches, alcoves, and extra storage spaces like cabinets and closets.

Learn more! Create a detailed checklist and get other helpful tips and worksheets by downloading our FREE “First Steps” booklet. Visit

• Straight-run stairs are easier and cheaper to build than double-backs (U-shaped) or curved stairs. • Does the plan you’re considering allow for plumbing runs to be shared; for example, are bathrooms situated back-to-back? This will save you money up-front and in potential maintenance costs. • Remember that bigger isn’t always better. Embracing smart design over more square footage will save you money and make your home more livable.

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Home Builders Guide • August 2012



more bang for your buck


Start smart

Did you know?

While it may seem obvious, making smart financial decisions is one of the best ways to save money in the home-building process.

Energy-Efficient Mortgages

1 2


Credit counts Long before choosing a lender, make sure your credit is in order; most experts suggest you do this at least six months before you apply for a loan. This means optimizing your credit cards, paying off as many debts as you can, and saving as much money as possible for a down payment. Postpone any big-ticket purchases until after you secure your mortgage.

Find the right lender Shop around for the best deal. Create a worksheet comparing the options available from each lender you consider, and remember that not all offers are as good as they look. In particular, ask for and compare each one’s Annual Percentage Rate (APR), which should include not only the interest rate on your mortgage, but also the costs associated with applying for and securing the loan you want. Even though one lender may offer a lower interest rate than the rest, the hidden additional costs may increase your overall mortgage payments in the long run.

Available through both government-insured and conventional loan programs, energy-efficient mortgages (EEMs) enable the borrower to take out a larger loan to cover the up-front costs of adding energyefficiency features to their home. The money you will save on monthly utility bills is considered when determining the mortgage loan amount. Tax Tip

Talk to your tax preparer each year about any consumer tax credits that may be available for energy-efficient home improvements. Credits for solar water heaters and solar panels have been available, and additional incentives may be coming soon.

Warranties: Know what’s covered Like any product, your home comes with a warranty, which should prevent any unpleasant surprises in the first years after you move in. All warranties have limits. Ask about the standards to which your builder will adhere when determining the validity of warranty repair requests. Make sure that you understand and make good use of your warranty coverage, as part of your home-care plan.

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Home Builders Guide • August 2012

building a high-quality yet affordable home


Tips for lowering your energy bills There are numerous ways to save money on energy bills for your new home. Although some may require an up-front investment, the long-range return is worth it—for your pocketbook as well as for the environment. • Consider building with insulating concrete forms, which can save you 25 to 50 percent in energy costs over traditional wood- or steel-framed homes. As an added bonus, they make your home quieter and better protected from the elements as well. • Look into alternative energy sources for heating and cooling your home, which can dramatically reduce energy costs. Geothermal systems, micro-hydroelectric systems, and wind generators tap into the free, renewable energy provided by the earth’s heat, water, and wind sources.

• Consider installing a tankless water heater. This device heats water in as little as five seconds as you use it rather than heating and storing water all day and all night. When the hot water faucet is turned off, the system shuts down and wastes no energy. • Opt for ENERGY STAR qualified products, which meet strict energy-efficiency guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. These include appliances, heating and cooling systems, home electronics, office equipment, and lighting. • Add solar collector panels on your roof to help heat your home—and some of your water—naturally. • Install energy-saving, compact fluorescent light bulbs. Such bulbs can use 75 percent less energy than standard bulbs while lasting 6 to 10 times longer. • Eliminate “standby” electricity loss by unplugging appliances when not in use. This includes VCRs, cable boxes, computers, and printers. Group appliances near each other and plug them into one surge protector or power strip, so it’s quick and easy to unplug several items at once.

Learn more! Check out our article “Earth, Wind, and No Fire: Harness the Elements to Energize Your Home” at

• Make sure insulation is properly installed throughout your home to help keep temperatures stable and reduce energy loss. Ask about an insulation’s R-value (thermal resistance); the higher it is, the more effective it will be in reducing air leakage and energy escape. • Install high-performance windows. Multiple-paned windows trap air between the panes of glass, acting as an insulator. These insulating windows help prevent heat transfer, which translates into increased energy efficiency.

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Home Builders Guide • August 2012




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Home Builders Guide • August 2012

smart money

Plan APS-2119,

Look to the future Selecting a plan that can adapt to your changing needs will help you avoid costly modifications down the road. Expandable Plans

Consider choosing an expandable plan that provides areas to be finished later, such as an unfinished basement or a bonus room over the garage. Allowing for future space gives you room to grow without breaking the bank. It’s much cheaper to build a home with unfinished areas than it is to add on a room at a later date. Accessible Plans

Think about how your needs might change as you age, and choose an accessible plan to accommodate them. Mainfloor master suites or one-story homes eliminate the need to go up and down stairs. Barrier-free designs are wheelchairaccessible with wide doorways, pathways, and access ramps. Look for adjustable-height shelving and workstations, roll-in shower stalls with seats, and walk-in tubs.

Proper planning is one of the best ways to ensure your new home’s quality and value. Above all, establish good communication with your builder. Your participation and interaction throughout the building process, whether through “sweat equity” or by regularly scheduled, on-site meetings with your builder, can help guarantee quality and save you money.

Plan search tip: Browse hundreds of expandable, barrier-free, and one-story homes at Simply click on “More Search Options” and enter your search criteria.

Get involved! Consider applying the home’s finishing touches yourself, such as paint, wallpaper, and landscaping, to put your mark on the process and cut costs. And remember, there are almost always lower-cost alternatives for the products you love but can’t afford.

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Home Builders Guide • August 2012



PRELIMINARY STEPS What’s essential before you break ground Once you’ve gotten through the initial stages of the home design process, you may think your part is over. It isn’t. You’ll need to gather information, talk with your builder and make weighty decisions that affect all aspects of your new home. Proper planning is one of the best ways to ensure your new home’s quality and value. Before you break ground, follow these tips to prepare yourself for this risky but all-important first step: 1. Above all, establish good communication with your builder. Make sure that this person is someone you trust and can address frankly. The home you are purchasing will be crafted before your eyes, so there is a great deal of pressure on the builder— and high expectations from you—for the final product. It is essential that you meet in the middle. As an initial topic, discuss your roles and responsibilities throughout the process. Talk with your builder about who will take care of permits, insurance, temporary utilities (power, water, etc.), contingency plans, inspections and other regulations or local requirements, plus any fees associated with them. Set up a payment schedule on which you both agree. Make sure you put in writing who will be responsible for what and by when, so that you avoid ugly legal disputes in the end. To be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to consult your attorney about particulars you may have forgotten. Next, determine a specific time frame in which construction will be completed. Though your builder will want to provide you with the most accurate estimate possible, factors like weather conditions, labor shortages and permit delays may hinder the process more than either of you would hope. Also, the longer it takes to pull pieces from the initial stages together—details which should be finalized six to twelve months before breaking ground—the longer it will take to complete the project. Establish a general time frame with your builder and continue to inquire about the target completion date, but don’t be surprised if delays creep up because of unforeseen circumstances. On the other hand, be aware of preventable delays and be ready to call your builder to task if necessary. 2. Having established a rapport with your builder, it’s time for the “dirty” work. Before you begin digging up the lot, you will need to obtain a soil report, which summarizes the lot conditions and assesses the surrounding environment, while suggesting the proper foundation for your home. A soil test takes about a day, and may be performed by your builder or an engineer you hire; generating a report can take up to a week. 3. Assuming the foundation shown in your blueprints suits the site, your builder (or engineer) will survey the lot to determine the best placement of the home. This will determine the parameters of your home’s footprint, as well as its prime location with respect to sunlight, ground conditions and landscape features. This should only take about a day to complete. Make any necessary changes to your plans now, including drawing a new foundation, reversing the layout, converting the exterior wall framing or adjusting the window placement. These tests and modifications are important for the next step: securing a building permit. 4. With some exceptions, breaking ground requires that you obtain a building permit from your local building department. In most cases, your builder will take care of this step and include any fees in your final

Your participation throughout the Your participation throughout building process the building process can can help guarantee quality help guarantee and save you money. quality and save you money. building costs; however, the application process requires many documents from you, so your direct involvement may be helpful (see sidebar). Typically, but depending on the amount of construction taking place in your area, you will receive a permit within a few days of applying, but plan for two weeks, to be safe. Any changes that the building department officials specify for your plans are mandatory and nonnegotiable, and should be made immediately. Major changes may require additional approval before they can be implemented. If you belong to a homeowners association, you may require additional approvals for your proposed blueprints, building materials and/or lot choices. Make sure you are aware of these requirements, and comply accordingly. Obtaining final approval means that, for all practical purposes, you may proceed with your building plans. Routine inspections arranged by your builder will ensure that the construction of your home continues to meet local codes throughout the process. (Your builder should keep an inspection card listing a record of inspections and subsequent approvals, in order to exchange this card for a certificate of occupancy once the home is complete.) 5. Now begins the process of preparing your site. First, it may be necessary to level the lot before laying the foundation. You may have to remove trees, rocks and debris that otherwise hinder your ability to build in that area, so discuss with your builder how you want these items to be discarded. Think carefully about the removal of trees—while some may interfere with power

WHAT’SWhat’s NEEDEDTO APPLYFO RAPE RMIT Needed To Apply For A Permit • Permit application form

• Soil report (2 copies)

• Site plan (2 copies) showing the house placement, easements and setbacks

• Engineer-approved foundation plans (2 copies)

• Complete set of blueprints (2 copies) • Engineered truss drawings (2 copies)

When it comes to custom home building, choosing our plans or yours, We’re dedicated to making your building experience a great one!

• Driveway permit for establishing access to a county road (rural lots only)

• Letter from the water and sewer district (including percolation test results for a septic system, and a well permit for a well) • Acceptance letter from your homeowners association (where applicable)

lines or with the growth of other plants, others will add beauty and value to your property and are worth keeping, if feasible. 6. Next, your builder will stake the house using batter boards and taut lines to form its general outline, a process that generally takes a day or two, depending on the size of your home. He or she may choose to do a “rough stake” that is less precise and allows for more accurate adjustments after excavation has begun; if so, this process may add another day to the overall time frame, but it could be worth the extra effort. Be careful not to disturb these lines when you visit the site! 7. At last, you have reached the point of groundbreaking. Excavation of your site will begin within the parameters established by the stakes. Removed topsoil will be deposited elsewhere on your lot and eventually used to shape the grade of the site. Utility lines that connect your home to water, sewer and power resources will also be installed at this point. Just because construction is beginning doesn’t mean you can just sit back and watch it happen. Your participation throughout the building process, whether through “sweat equity” or by regularly scheduled, onsite meetings with your builder, can help guarantee quality and save you money. While contracting your own home can save you thousands of dollars, it is generally just as efficient—and if you have less experience, more practical—to hire someone else to do it. You may, however, apply the finishing touches, such as paint, wallpaper and land- scaping, to put your mark on the process and cut costs. Carefully choosing products that suit your needs without breaking your bank account can save you money in the long run. There are almost always lower-cost alternatives for the products you love but can’t afford. Manufactured stone, for example, easily replaces heavy, expensive and hard-to-find natural stone, with essentially the same look. By researching your options before and during the building process, and staying well informed of the home’s progress, you can avoid making costly mistakes while protecting your investment. Sources: Binsacca, Rich; The Home Building Process: Everything You Need to Know to Work with Contractors and Subcontractors; Tucson, Ariz.: Home Planners, LLC, 1999. Smith, Carol; Building Your Home: An Insider’s Guide; Washington, D.C.: Home Builder Press, 1996. Resource:





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Home Builders Guide • August 2012

creat a wish list Your dream home begins with a checklist. ome people believe in love at first sight. For them, finding the home they’ve always dreamed about is simple: They believe that they’ll recognize the perfect home the moment they see it. Others prefer a more calculated approach. For them, we’ve created a checklist that can be used as a guide for identifying the home that best fits the way they live. When you shop at a grocery store, you likely prepare a list beforehand of the items you want to purchase. The reason for this is twofold: 1. The list reminds you of exactly what you need so you don’t forget anything. 2. The list keeps you focused on the necessities so you don’t waste time needlessly wandering the aisles. We recommend compiling a list and referring to it as you browse this magazine or online at You probably have a general idea of the features you want to include in your new home. Creating a list can help you to refine your choices, so that as you begin searching, you’re sure to focus on homes that meet your criteria. Use your completed list as a bookmark to make sure you don’t misplace it, and keep a pen or pencil handy so you can jot down notes or even refine the list as you search. You may even want to create an electronic version that is available as you search through plans online at Begin by filling in information about your current home; then create a parallel list of the features you desire in your dream home.






Breakfast/ Snack bar



Planning desk



Walk-in pantry



Formal living room



Formal dining room



Great Room



Hearth room



Den or family room



Recreation room



Study/ Library



Home office



Bonus room/ Future space



In-law or guest suite



Media room



Sun porch/ Sun room



Master suite with private bath



Whirlpool tub



Shower stall



Private toilet



Main-floor location



Access to outdoor area (porch, deck, patio)






Walk-in closet(s)



Sitting room or area









Wet bar



Outdoor kitchen



Front porch



Screened porch














Square footage Number of floors Number of bedrooms Number of baths Foundation type (slab, crawlspace, standard basement or walk-out) Shape (walk-through, L-shaped, U-shaped)




Dream Home

Style (Country, Tudor, Victorian, etc.)



Making a list can help you focus on your preferences

Current Home

Number of sinks


Laundry room location (basement, main floor, upper floor)


Other outdoor living area Garage Number of car stalls Attached Front-, side- or rear-entry

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Home Builders Guide • August 2012




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Home Builders Guide • August 2012

Not many people have a pot of gold to finance Try Our Online Calculat the construction of a new home. For most of us, hile it is recommended that you consult with a a con- struction loan and aW mortgage areany financial decisions advisor before making help you estimate the funding details of your real est Not many people to have provide a pot of gold to finance needed the the necessary funds. Securto visit and click on the “How construction of a new home. For most of us, a conafford” Enter your ing loan financing as link. long asmonthly youincome and expense struction and a mortgage areisn’t needed todifficult provide the calculator will give you an estimate of the monthl theknow necessary funds. Securingyou financing isn’t difficult you can afford. what are lookingment for. as long as you know what you are looking for.

Finding the

the labor, materials or p ro d u c t s they have provided. That’s where your construction loan will come into the process. This credit line is used to pay the subcontractors and suppliers on a timely basis during construction. Once each month or as specific stages of construction are completed, you or the builder will prepare a request for funds called a “construction draw,” which is submitted to the lender or the title company to pay for work completed thus far. Partial payments may be made to major subcontractors whose work extends through several stages of the home-building process. Subcontractors and suppliers typically agree to waive their lien rights against the home upon payment. Most lenders will require that you pay for extras and changes as those expenses are incurred. Expect to pay a portion of the builder’s overhead and direct job expenses with each draw, unless your contract with the builder states otherwise. Although it seems counterintuitive, you must apply for a residential mortgage and have the lender’s commitment for that loan in hand before you will be able to obtain a construction loan. Very few lenders will approve a construction loan without being assured that a “permanent” mortgage will pay off or “take-out” the construction financing when the home is completed.

Funds Negotiating the maze of home financing options by Tom Stephani

inancing can be a confusing aspect of building a new home because custom-home buyers need to obtain both a construction loan and a residential mortgage. The construction loan acts as a shortterm line of credit while the mortgage supplies funds on a long-term basis with an amortized payoff. It’s wise to investigate your borrowing capacity prior to embarking on the home-building process, but you probably won’t need to secure your


financing until you’ve purchased or reserved the site for your new home, approved the design, building plans and written specifications for your home and signed a contract with the builder. How Construction Loans Work Few subcontractors and suppliers can afford to wait until your home is completed for payment for

If you want to know what your monthly payment cific mortgage amount, click on the “Mortgage pay link and enter your home’s purchase price, your dow annual property tax and insurance charges to bring bac

the construction and mortgage loans will include verification of your employment (e.g., W-2 forms and paycheck stubs) or documentation of your self-employment income, verification of your assets (e.g., savings and investment account statements), your income tax returns for the last two or three years, your construction contract with the builder, the plans, specifications and cost breakdown for building your home and the purchase contract for or title to the site where your home will be built. The construction loan lender will require a “take-out commitment” letter to verify that you’ve applied for and obtained a “permanent” mortgage. If you obtain both loans from the same lender, you might be able to minimize providing duplicate documentation; however, construction and permanent loans usually are handled by different departments, so you may still need to provide two complete sets of documents. It can be beneficial and easier to deal with one lender for both loans, but that’s neither required nor always the best option. Lenders are beginning to make constructionto-perm loans, which wrap both parts of the financing into a single financing package. The construction loan simply converts to a permanent mortgage when construction is completed. Although construction-to-perm loans can work well, they aren’t necessarily the best option for every situation. Try to obtain the best rate and terms available for your long-term mortgage, regardless of whether it’s connected to a short-term construction loan. Once you have a commitment for a mortgage, a construction loan should be relatively easy to obtain. Copyright by Move, Inc.

Get Your House in Order The extensive documentation required for both

Try Our Online Calculators While it is recommended that you consult with a qualified financial advisor before making any financial decisions, a quick way to help you estimate the funding details of your real estate transaction is to visit and click on the “How much home can I afford” link. Enter your monthly income and expense information, and the calculator will give you an estimate of the monthly mortgage pay- ment you can afford. If you want to know what your monthly payment will be for a spe- cific mortgage amount, click on the “Mortgage payment calculator” link and enter your home’s purchase price, your down payment and annual property tax and insurance charges to bring back the number.

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Home Builders Guide • August 2012



Changing trends in remodeling reasons and rooms TOM BEHM, President, Home Builders Association Americans are in love with remodeling. Television networks such as HGTV and DIY run 24 hours a day with shows like “BATHtastic” and “Design Star.” Magazines, websites and blogs feature happy home owners gushing over perfect room makeovers. And with the continuing challenging economy, more home owners have decided to stay in their current home Other popular jobs were window and door re- replace old or outdated components and the desire longer, which has created higher demand for remod- placements, room additions, handyman services and for better and newer amenities. More than 50 pereling. whole house remodeling, although whole house re- cent of remodelers said that these two reasons for reA survey released by the National Association of modeling is down significantly from its peak in the modeling have become more common over the past Home Builders (NAHB) in 2012 shows that common mid-2000s. two years. remodeling projects have increased, compared to a Whether they are inspired by the amazing The motivation behind many home owners’ decisimilar survey from 2010. And nearly 50 percent of sion to remodel has changed as well. The top two rea- makeovers shown on television shows, or their remodelers report seeing an increase in the number sons for remodeling were the need to repair or changing lifestyle necessitates repurposing spaces to of home owners who unmake more efficient use dertake remodels to of their home’s square avoid moving, compared footage, home owners to the 2010 findings. are turning to profesBathroom and kitchen sional remodelers to remodeling remain the improve their help two most common types home. of jobs, as they have For more information been consistently since on remodelers in our 2001. After 2009, howarea, go to www.westerever, bathroom and or for kitchen remodeling more in depth informaswitched places—bathtion on remodeling and the impact on your rooms became the most Use this checklist to help you select a home with names of previous customers. If they homes value visit frequent type of job for builder or home remodeler to work on or build won't, beware. If they do, ask the customers if remodelers. your home: they would hire the builder/remodeler again. ing. Seventy-eight percent of Ask if you can see the builder/remodelers Also be sure to mark the survey respondents Contact the Western Ohio Home Builders work, both completed and in progress. Check your calendar now for cited bathroom remodelAssociation for the names of member builders for quality of workmanship and materials. our Fall Home and Gift ing as one of the most and remodelers: Show. Vendors will be on Do you feel you can easily communicate common jobs, an all-time You should also ask family, friends or cowork- with the builder/remodeler? Remember you hand to discuss with you high. various ways to increase ers for recommendations. will be in close contact with them throughout Home owners are freyour home energy effisure the builder or home remodeler Make quently asking for a the construction process and afterward as ciency, look, value and has a permanent business location and a high-end spa feel to you live in your new home. overall comfort just in good reputation with local banks and supplitheir new bathrooms, Make sure the builder/remodeler provides time for the Holidays. ers. with features and mateAlso get your holiday you with a complete and clearly written conFind out how long they have been in the tract. The contract will benefit both of you. If rials such as television shopping started by visitscreens built into mirbuilding business. It usually takes three to five you are having a new home built, get and reing with the various rors, exotic wood finhome goods, crafts, gifts, years to establish a financially sound busi- view a copy of the home warranty and homeishes, recycled glass tiles beauty and specialty food ness. You want to make sure they will be owner manual as well. vendors at the show from and sophisticated lightaround after the construction is complete to Be cautious of unusually low-priced bids. If Friday, October 26 ing systems. Other popservice any warranties. the builder/remodeler is unable to pay for the through Sunday, October ular features include Check out the company's rating and if there materials and labor as the project proceeds, 28, 2012 at the Miami those that enable a have been any complaints filed with your local this may indicate a potential problem. Keep in Valley Centre Mall. For home owner to stay in Better Business Bureau: more information on the their home as they age; mind that less expensive does not necessarMake sure the builder/remodeler has suffi- ily mean better! show or to become a including step-in tubs home interior designer cient workers compensation and general liaand shower stall Find more helpful advice on choosing the vendor, home improvebility insurance. If not, you may be liable for right builder for your next project, contact the benches and rails. ment specialist vendor or any construction-related accidents on your Both kitchen and Western Ohio Home Builders Association at an arts, crafts or gift venpremises. bathroom remodeling dor, call Donna at the 937-339-7963 or visit our new website at projects were up 17 perAsk the builder/remodeler to provide you HBA office at 937-339cent from two years ago. 7963.

Checklist for finding and hiring a builder or remodeler Doing your homework will help you have a more successful experience

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Home Builders Guide • August 2012


Welcome to Edgewater! A charming and conveniently located neighborhood... Edgewater is approximately 2 miles west of Interstate 75 on State Route 55 (Exit 73) in Troy, Ohio just minutes away from schools, shopping and restaurants. A new section, with lots to accommodate 3-car garages, is coming soon.

Visit Harlow Builder’s Open House in Edgewater every Sunday from 2:00 to 4:00.

Homes Starting in the $160’s For more information contact Harlow Builders

Now Taking Reservations!

Office: 937-339-9944 Cell: 937-603-0513 Email:

Visit our new Office and Selection Center located at 701 N. Market St.,Troy DIRECTIONS: I-75 to exit #74 (OH ST RT 41), head east on ST RT 41, enter the round-about and take the third exit onto N. Market Street. Located past the Troy High School and immediately past the railroad tracks.

of Stonebridge


Home Builders Guide August 2012  
Home Builders Guide August 2012  

Home Builders Guide August 2012